The term “Social Media” is used ad nauseum to describe an ever growing collection of tools and services by which people share content, links, opinions, experience and perspectives with each other. Keeping up with the latest Social Media services and sites can make you dizzy. Wikipedia now lists 21 different types of social media related platforms, and there are over 25 different social bookmarking services alone. There are even services to help satiate your multiple bookmark needs, and here’s a “Who’s Who in Social Search” outlining some of the various forms of social media and tools. Hat-tip to Chris Sherman for it.
You probably have an email from a client asking why their site isn’t on the Digg homepage, or why nobody is socially bookmarking them over at Reddit or Ma.gnolia. For the love of LinkMoses they haven’t even been StumbledUpon once! In response, you download some toolbars and bookmarklets, you open accounts at a few of those services and then you got busy seeding your client’s URLs far and wide. I’ll save the ethical discussion of whether it is appropriate to open social bookmarking accounts for purely marketing reasons, and for now see Social Link Spam and Cigarette Butts, which I wrote last year.
It’s true that social media services and tools enable link building. Not as discussed is that social tools attract a specific type of demographic. Youtube? Younger. MySpace? Older. Digg? Young, male. Cranky.com bills itself as the first age-relevant search engine, “applying an age 50-and-up lens to every query, combining the power of technology with expert reviews and user ratings and rankings to deliver the best search results for adults over 50.” Well, my older brother is 50+. He’s worked in technology his whole life. He’s been on web development teams. He knows the Internet. He’s online every day. And he had never heard of Cranky.com until I told him about it. Naturally, his first question was to ask me if I’d submit his company’s site and if that would help his Google rankings. It never ends…
Social bookmark services and tools unfortunately also appeal to the uglier side of link building. It takes just minutes to “share” your links all over the Web2.0 world. And with the majors getting into the act, you can be sure the link spam will follow. It’s fair to say that not every web site needs to be dugg, bookmarked, tagged, shadowed or furled. Some sites will benefit from social media links, others won’t, no matter how hard they try. Getting a flood of traffic is meaningless unless you are prepared for it, and can do something with it when you get it. Much link Link Bait, anyone can socialize their links it, but not everyone should.
As with most online marketing tactics, the key is in recognizing the social linking potential for your site, and balancing that potential with the practical. Links for the sake of links are pointless, but links for the sake of paying clients are ok? Hardly. Maybe rather than bragging about getting your client’s site linked at all those social bookmark sites, you’d be better off explaining that for many sites, social links offer little if any value, other than to make you the link builder look good. Knowing which sites benefit from social linking and why, and then being able to properly pursue and obtain those links is a far more useful skill than opening up 25 separate social bookmark accounts, which anyone can do. How many do you have?
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.